The major headlines in mainstream newspapers today, Friday, March 22 are focused on the USA’s assessment of the 2019 elections and its advise concerning the March 23 supplementary polls, INEC’s response to the USA’s statement and it’s preparations for the supplementary polls, and the ongoing trial of Justice Walter Onnoghen.
Kicking off the review, The Guardian reports that the US has cautioned all political stakeholders to play according to the rules in the supplementary elections holding on Saturday, March 23.
In a statement released on Thursday, March 21 the US urged them to work towards credible and peaceful supplementary elections.
The publication reports that the US also expressed disappointment over cases of violence, interference by security forces, intimidation and vote buying during the presidential and governorship elections.
The US further maintained that it does not have a preferred party or candidate, but as a democratic partner of Nigeria, it remains committed to working together to achieve mutual goals of peace and prosperity for the citizens of both countries.
In light of the report of the previous publication, Punch reports that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has reacted to the USA’s statement that it was disappointed by the low voter turnout and reports of voter intimidation, vote-buying, interference by security forces and violence in some locations during Nigeria’s 2019 elections.
According to the news outlet, the electoral commission said there could never be any perfect election anywhere in the world.
While appreciating the US support for Nigeria’s electoral process, the chief press secretary to the INEC chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, said that no country in the world could conduct a perfect election, adding that the US observations were not enough to discredit the integrity of the elections.
He said in part: “As one of our important partners, the Independent National Electoral Commission appreciates the United States’ interest and support for Nigeria’s electoral process.
“However, there is no country in the world where general elections are perfect from the beginning to the end. In our reckoning, coupled with various reports released by local and international observers so far, the 2019 general elections were a success, but by no means perfect.”
Meanwhile, The Nation reports that legal battles raged on Thursday over supplementary elections in Bauchi and Adamawa states.
The March 9 polls had been declared inconclusive in six states by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The publication reports that all three stakeholders in the elections – INEC, All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – were trading arguments in court over Bauchi and Adamawa, two of the states expected to undergo the March 23 makeup polls.
In other states – Sokoto, Benue, Kano and Plateau – the APC and the PDP were flexing muscles as the electoral umpire said it was ready for the elections.
On its part, Vanguard reports that against the background of judicial intrigues by political interest groups, INEC opened up on its plans to hold supplementary governorship and legislative elections in 18 states where the polls had been declared inconclusive.
The publication reports that the commission, however, set new timelines to conclude governorship and state legislative elections in Rivers state.
INEC’s national commissioner and chairman of information and voter education Committee, Festus Okoye, told journalists in Abuja, on Thursday, that the commission will resume collation and announcement of results in Rivers state between April 2 and 5, hold supplementary elections on April 13 and release the results on or before April 15.
The March 23 supplementary polls will hold in Bauchi, Kano, Benue, Plateau, and Sokoto.
State House of Assembly elections will also hold in 17 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
Finally, ThisDay reports that the embattled chief justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen’s trial appears to be reaching an anti-climax with key prosecution witnesses’ testimony contradicting claims that the CJN might have corruptly amassed wealth way out of his income.
The federal government closed its case on Thursday and a senior silk in Onnoghen’s team reportedly told the publication that the prosecution’s case had crumbled.
The source reportedly said: “The prosecution’s case has crumbled and we have nothing to defend.”
The embattled CJN is facing a six-count charge bordering on incomplete asset declaration; and the publication notes that reports apparently promoted by the federal government had speculated that the CJN had fat foreign currencies based accounts and scores of houses undeclared as required by law.
During Thursday’s proceedings, however, two of the prosecution’s star witnesses reportedly failed to establish claims in the public domain that the CJN was a hefty account owner and massive property man.
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